From two reports that we've probably all read (one involving a woman in Las Vegas, the other involved a dog -- don't remember the city), we all know this is not an urban legend.
On my way up the hill to catch the subway, I happened by a lampost with a hot-pink piece of paper pasted on the traffic-light control box.
The word "ELECTROCUTION!" caught my eye and so, figuring it probably had to do with X-mas tree lights being strung across awnings, banisters, etc.
My first thought was someone had touched a faulty fairy-light string, gotten bitten and therefore was making this big deal about them. No big surprise considering how chintzy those light strings are.
It turns out that, according to the author, that some people have been shocked when they've walked over utility manholes or touched or leaned up against lamp-posts.
Too many of the lamposts in my fair city that I run across, have the access hatch covers in the bases missing and sometimes the jumble of wires has been pulled out and is spilling out on the sidewalk. Water (especially snow runoff) gets into these things often.
Five fire-engines visited my street corner last Saturday night to answer a call about flickering lights in my apartment building. Turns out a transformer vault in the street had caught fire.
The snow has since been shoveled and melted away so I took a look at the manhole in question. Con Edison had been doing work a few months ago and had laid a temporary cable coming out the manhole and down the gutter along the sidewalk while they cut up a slit in the street to replace a faulty underground cable.
Eventually they removed the feeder and patched up their work. So what I noticed today were holes and cracks in the patch, along the manhole. Probably a combination of road salt and melting snow that caused it to leak into the underground vault.
Wasn't the lady in Las Vegas killed as she stepped over an access hatch that was covering some wires with worn insulation? The dog that got killed (anyone remember where this was) happened to be standing on a similar metal cover and the owner didn't know what was going on when he/she saw their dog having convulsions.
Hmm....I guess ol' Tommy Edison's manhole covers are just another thing to dodge in addition to the usual piles of dog dung, people's expectorations and chewing gum so common on a New York City sidewalk....